How we forget to trust our body
A devastation occurs when we face an ongoing or severe health challenge: we forget how to trust our body.
I struggled for five years with a severe autoimmune disease, and my worsening symptoms were extremely painful and inconvenient. I felt helpless, as if my wellbeing had been hijacked by my own body. I no longer felt safe within my body.
I distrusted my body because I didn’t understand what it was trying to tell me. I didn’t know, at that time, that symptoms are a sacred messages from our wise body. In order to heal, I had to listen to my body, not silence my symptoms.
When faced with a life-changing surgery, I could no longer silence symptoms with medication and emotional denial. To avoid the surgery, I decided to finally listen to my body and make necessary changes to heal myself.
In this post, I debunk some of the widely-accepted myths that hold back healing and prevent a loving, trusting relationship with your body. When we break through these myths, we rekindle trust with our bodies. This trust feels like a relief, and like a homecoming.
1. THE HUMAN BODY IS A MACHINE THAT REQUIRES REPAIR FOR BROKEN, Worn-OUT PARTS.
Modern science is governed by reductionism. This belief attempts to understand a whole by analyzing the parts, outside of the relevance of the whole. This perspective arose from Enlightenment thinking, when René Descartes popularized the idea that the body works like a machine, governed by the three laws of motion.
In the West, we still perceive the body as a machine, with wheels and cogs of interlocking cells, running on chemical reactions. Contrast that belief with the mindset of Eastern Medicine, where energetic forces animate the body and orchestrate biological functions.
The view of “human as machine” underpins the Western approach to treating illness. When one part of the body malfunctions, it’s like a broken cog in a wheel. We look at the broken piece in isolation of the entire system.
One walk through a hospital shows just how well this approach is working. Medications and surgeries, intended to fix the one broken cog, do not heal the underlying problem. No part of the body acts in isolation, so we are susceptible to side effects requiring additional treatments.
No part of the body acts apart from the rest of the body, and neither does it act apart from our whole environment. The side effects of medications reach far beyond our own bodies, because pharmaceutical residues pollute our soil and water. The toxic effects even touch our future generations. For example, many drugs, like antibiotics and The Pill, compromise our gut flora. Babies inherit this damaged gut flora and start life with compromised immune function, a propensity to obesity, and/or mental illness.
Our medical system flatly ignores the wise words of the Iroquois Indians:
In every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.
Our current medical approach does not even consider the impact of our prescriptions on the next seven years of an individual’s life, let alone future generations.
The body is not a machine, for it contains the intelligence required to heal. Consider how the body organizes itself from the ambiguous blob of cells in utero. Our body possesses the blueprint for growth, development, and repair processes.
For example, a cut in the skin heals with no outside intervention. Likewise, the immune system knows how to fight pathogenic bacteria, and the digestive system knows how to break down food into nutrients. The body contains the knowledge to construct and reconstruct itself.
Just as our body’s development is informed by itself, so is the body’s healing. This internal programing is an inner compass that always points toward balance.
The body doesn’t break like a machine. Illness occurs when the body loses touch with its innate (inborn) intelligence. The chemicals in our environment, our nutrient-stripped food, and the stresses of our 21st century lives make us lose touch with our compass.
The healing practitioner is not a mechanic for a broken body. Rather, the practitioner is a guide, clarifying to the body’s inner intelligence.
2. IF SOMEONE IS SICK, OBESE, DEPRESSED, ANXIOUS, OR ADDICTED, IT’S his or her FAULT.
We can only be as healthy as the Earth is healthy, for we are made of the Earth. The past few generations have been born into an earth that is pillaged and polluted, so no wonder we face a health epidemic.
The fluoride in our water, the pesticides in our soil, the preservatives in our shampoo becomes the fluoride in our bones, pesticides in our tissues, and the preservatives in our blood.
We know that these chemicals influence the development of autism, learning disorders, schizophrenia, and autoimmune diseases. We also know that the processed food given to us at a young age promotes food addictions, behavioral disorders, and chronic illnesses.
And finally, we know that when these toxic elements are combined, their poisonous effect is exponentially magnified. For example, the body may be able to withstand years of a processed diet if gut flora is hearty and diverse. But when we’ve taken rounds of antibiotics and pharmaceuticals, our diet can wreak havoc on our health.
Because we are born of a sick earth, we are not at fault for having a chronic illness. Surely, the fault must belong to someone or something else. The governments? Corporations? Big Pharma?
“Who’s at fault?” is an enormous question, but a question often asked to remove the responsibility of change from our own shoulders. But it’s always our responsibility, and no one else’s, to heal yourself.
It matters less who is at fault. What matters more is healing your body, so that you can play your part in healing the Earth. It’s not her fault that she’s sick, either.
3. HEALING MEANS GETTING BETTER
The Healing Journey is an archetypal path that will reveals what matters most is within you. It’s a winding road of self-discovery — not a smooth, straight highway to perfect physical health.
Healing is not about going from Point A (Unhealthy) to Point B (Healthy). In our results-oriented culture, we may believe we aren’t healing if we can’t cure all our symptoms.
I believed that myth. I had healed my acute symptoms through nutrition, allowing me to avoid surgery and get off a pharmacy’s-worth of medications. But I still experienced some digestive and hormonal symptoms, no matter how many protocols I implemented, or supplements and superfoods I took.
I felt discouraged, and began to doubt my capacity for full recovery. As this doubt crept in, a louder internal voice in me reminded me that my healing potential was unlimited.
When I provided myself grace and patience for the seeming stagnation of my healing, new doors to healing opened. Life provided me with new relationships and new challenges to discover my inner strength. As I stepped into my courage and confidence, some of my lingering symptoms began to dissipate.
Your Healing Journey is a sacred initiation into your strength. Your mission on this journey is to discover who you truly are. Physical healing is a side-effect of the journey, not the primary goal, or the measurement of progress.
4. ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE (ENERGY WORK, ACUPUNCTURE, HOMEOPATHY, ETC.) DOESN’T WORK BECAUSE WE ALREADY KNOW HOW THE BODY WORKS.
A common argument against alternative healing therapies goes like this: “That’s a form of quackery, because we don’t have scientific evidence proving it’s effective. Those modalities make no sense, because they contradict or ignore what we know about the mechanisms of the human body.”
People who say this trust only methodologies proven by scientific studies and condoned by medical institutions. They only consider viable only those therapies which have an identifiable “mechanism of action,” such as a specific, drug-like chemical reaction in the body.
How alternative therapies work is an unknown unknown. Consider how often human beings miss entire spectrums of reality that are right in front of their noses. For example, we didn’t even know electromagnetic frequencies existed and could be harnessed for communication until the last century.
We may never have a mechanistic, reductionist explanation for how alternative therapies work. In the words of Stuart Feinstein, Professor and Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, “Just as there are forces beyond the perception of our sensory apparatus, there may be perspectives that are beyond the conception of our mental apparatus.”
In the world of alternative healing, there are unknown unknowns, and unknown unknowables.
Slowly, we’ll gather insight about how alternative therapies work. In the meantime, we know they work because people experience benefits. That’s what healing comes down to, and it’s also the secret to life: trusting your intuition and experiences, rather than academic paperwork.
5. I HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO THAN BE SICK.
Whether it’s an unexpected flu or a diagnosis of a chronic illness, we usually respond by saying, “I don’t have time to be sick! This is completely disrupting my life, I didn’t plan for this. What an inconvenience.”
Well, the whole point of illness is to disrupt your life. Your body is telling you, “You evidently don’t know what’s best for you.” Maybe you’re putting toxic products on your body, maybe you’re eating a toxic die. Maybe you’re in a toxic relationship, or a toxic job. In order for your body’s internal compass to put you back on track, it first has to stop you in your tracks.
Also, the pace, productivity, and perfectionism demanded by the 21st Century lifestyle is unsustainable. We’ve been asking our bodies to be machines.
Getting sick is the body’s way of saying:
Hey, can I have your attention? You are a human being, not a human machine. Symptoms are the voice in which I speak my wisdom to you. Through symptoms, I tell you to change how you live, so you can be happier and healthier.
We often believe we have better things to do than allow room for the interruption of our symptoms. For a while, we may be successful in ignoring our symptoms with medications or mental denial. But when we keep ignoring our symptoms, chronic illness manifests.
Chronic illness is the body’s emergency brake mechanism. It’s the body’s way of saying to you, “I told you to make changes in your life, but you didn’t listen to me. Now, because I know what is best for you, I’m forcing you to change your life.”
You have nothing better to do than take care of your body. In return, your body will take care of you. So spend the time with your body, it’s the most wise and faithful person you will ever know. If you need a reminder of that, please read this love letter from your body.
Lauren, I have been following your blog for four years now, and I have to say that this essay really hit home for me. You are a lovely writer and a brilliant thinker, and I’m so grateful for your guidance during my own healing journey. I’ve been feeling discouraged lately, since some of my autoimmune symptoms have been flaring up after months of good health, and reading this reminds me that I need to take care of my spirit as much as my body (something I often forget). So, just wanted to say THANK YOU!
Thank you, Jackie, for your thoughtful comment. I’m grateful to hear that this post came at the right time for you. I wish you blessings as you continue on your healing journey!